Conclusions: The concept of rectal compliance as a determining factor for rectal function is appealing. However, several important obstacles must be overcome. First, consensus must be reached on what the term compliance means; is it a measure of the viscoelastic properties of the rectal wall, or does it refer to the active and passive elements that define distensibility of an innervated, muscular organ? Second, the overlapping effects of rectal compliance and rectal capacity need to be sorted out. Third, agreement is needed as to the correct technique to measure compliance, and standardized equipment and protocols must be adopted. Once these steps have been taken, we will be in a better position to understand exactly how compliance affects rectal behavior, both in health and in disease.